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Spanish village puts itself on international map with urban art 

PAGE 19 SPANISH

A tiny Spanish village has been dubbed a “Banksy dream” because of the way dozens of pieces of art are painted on virtually every free wall.

The picturesque hamlet of Fanzara only has 300 residents but each year, they get together, put differences aside and allow urban artists to spend hours creating stunning murals on their walls, as well as in the streets and squares.

Thousands of international visitors flock to the Castellon venue, about an hour from Valencia, to see the masterpieces which have transformed the previously run-down and neglected village into a shining jewel.

Ironically, the art festival, known as MIAU or the “Unfinished Museum of Urban Art”, has also brought its inhabitants closer together.

There were bitter rows and splits in 2005 when the local authority proposed a landfill site right in the heart of the protected countryside.

The project, eventually rejected, is said to have divided opinions so much that locals chose to avoid one another by drinking in different bars at opposing ends of the village.

Now, all ages join in the festival. Admisison to the “museum” is free because it is the whole of Fanzara, so it has many walls but no roof.

MIAU has been described as “the most unusual and stimulating streetart festival of the world.”

Organisers admit that it wasn’t the easiest of tasks to persuade many elderly residents in their 70s and 80s to allow artists to daub graffiti, no matter how good, all over their walls.

“We told them that if they didn’t like the results, we could repaint them white,” said a spokesman.

Dozens of artists now rise to the challenge, including Escif who is known as the Valencian Banksy. They come from around the world and give their services free of charge.

The only condition put on them is that they stay in the home of the families donating the space and involve them in the creative process. They eat, drink and live with them before and during the festival and have established firm friendships, even though many do not speak the same language.

Following the huge success of the project, its leaders have been invited to international conferences on rural tourism because of the interest MIAU has created.

The next edition is in July.